The Lonely Maiden Heist

08-Sep-09 12:17 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on The Lonely Maiden Heist

Massachusetts has become home to a booming film industry, hosting such movies as Mall Cop, Fever Pitch, The Game Plan, The Proposal, and Pink Panther 2. Okay, so that's not exactly a winning track record — but I have to support the home team, right?

One film that came to my neighborhood was The Maiden Heist, shot primarily in Boston but partly at the Worcester Art Museum, just a block from my house. But after a one-night screening at the local performance hall, the final product never saw a wider release, with its planned May 29th theatrical debut being cancelled after the bankruptcy of its distributor. As NPR detailed, the film's home video rights had already been purchased, so the window for a silver screen release was not indefinite, as is often the case with films that sit on shelves for years. It's unfortunate that a comedy starring movie starring Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, and Christopher Walken should not realize its potential, as these are some of my favorite actors.

On the other hand, the trailer for The Maiden Heist has to be one of the least funny previews I've ever seen. I don't know if it's the jokes that fall flat, or the presentation — could they have chosen and spliced different scenes together and gotten a better effect? — but this has to be one of the few comedic trailers that failed to elicit from me a guffaw, chuckle, or even a smirk:

Can talent of this caliber go wrong? Critics would say that's what happened with The Bucket List, which paired Morgan Freeman with Jack Nicholson. The film has only a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — yet I liked it. Does liking a film others hated mean I have bad taste, or low standards? If so, perhaps I can redeem myself by not being in the minority who find little redeeming value in The Maiden Heist. I hope the DVD, releasing on October 27th, does well… but if it doesn't, then its cancelled theatrical run may've been a blessing in disguise.

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

29-Jan-08 5:45 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

When I mentioned to a co-worker that I was looking forward to The Bucket List, he sighed in disgust. "Why are they putting Nicholson and Freeman through that? They deserve better," he muttered. Such disparaging remarks seemed a typical reception to this film, so I avoided all commercials, trailers and reviews. I feared I'd be similarly infected, and that the interest and enthusiasm the cast and concept alone piqued in me would be dashed.

I'm glad I dismissed the naysayers, as The Bucket List was a fun film. Morgan Freeman plays a father and husband who finds himself in the hospital with cancer at at the same time that Jack Nicholson — a rich, single, lonely tycoon — is similarly afflicted. One whimsically drafts a list of things to do before he dies, from the profound (see something majestic) to the frivlous (race a Shelby). Nicholson suggests they go out with a bang by making the list a reality and offers the funds with which to do so. Freeman's family is upset — they want to be with him until the bitter end — but it's too late, and a moment later the dynamic duo is jetting off to foreign countries.

Their activities aren't the stuff of legend, but among the more boyish antics is dialogue that's both amusing and pithy. There is little about this film that's original, but how can these two actors not make a good time of even the tired routine of two diverse individuals hitting the road and discovering themselves? I've never heard of a spell between chemotherapy and cancellation that embues patients with the strength to scale mountains; in that sense, the film defies reality right along with the characters. But compared to the weight and substance of other morbid films like Wit, this lighthearted comedy touches on the reality of the situation just often enough to keep viewers engaged while Freeman and Nicholson live our own boyish dreams of going out not with a whimper, but a bang.

A Convenient Film

15-Oct-07 6:14 PM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

It seems like documentaries have suddenly become an acceptable format for a popular film release. From political releases such as Death of a President and the upcoming Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, to scientific subjects such as In the Shadow of the Moon and more grounded ones like March of the Penguins, they all beg the question: Why the sudden approval of a predominantly slow, plodding, and — gasp! — educational medium?

I say the person we have to thank is Al Gore. As the former next president of the United States, Mr. Gore has a kind of fame not usually found in Hollywood. Any other star would've made a film about global warming into a made-for-TV special, but Mr. Gore propelled An Inconvenient Truth into theaters. Both his 2000 election loss and global warming are topics that are, for better or worse, controversial; people wanted to see what this presidential candidate, politically quiet for six years, had been up to, what his new angle was. It wasn't like Morgan Freeman narrating March of the Penguins; as engaging as the film was, there's little debatable about birds, and they didn't represent Mr. Freeman's politics or platform. But global warming? It's either the biggest scientific hoax of all time, or one of the greatest threats to life on Earth. It was a killer combination of topic and delivery, and its accolades, awards, and accumulated profits have opened the door for other documentarians.

And so I'd like to thank Mr. Gore, not for either alerting us to this peril or perpetuating this worldwide fraud, but for showing that documentaries can be edgy, accessible, and enjoyable — and, in so doing, expanding the diversity of film genres, subjects, and debates. If you haven't already discovered this cinematic style courtesy the Discovery or History channels or the works of Ken Burns, check it out; you'll find it's grown up from the inescapably dull classroom lessons forced upon you a generation ago.

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